High mountain snow melt fills rivers and creeks as peak runoff nears

May 26, 2023, 5:15 PM | Updated: 7:50 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The high-elevation snowpack in Utah is melting quickly. The low-elevation and mid-elevation snow has already melted and run off into creeks and rivers.

Still, there is a lot of water that has to come down from the high mountains

The creeks that drain the high-elevation snowpack are really roaring right now.  That includes Big Cottonwood Creek, Little Cottonwood Creek, City Creek, and Mill Creek in Salt Lake County.  

Huge volumes are flowing in those creeks today and the peak is still a week away.

Glen Merrill, hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City, talks about the high runoff flows in Big Cottonwood Creek. (KSL TV) Big Cottonwood Creek is roaring as high-mountain snow continues to melt. (KSL  TV)

“That high elevation snowpack has ripened, and it’s melting, and it’s melting fast on a daily basis,” Glen Merrill, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service said.

He met us at Big Cottonwood Creek to talk about the runoff.  He briefed Salt Lake County Flood Control earlier in the day. 

“Right now, we’re seeing super huge volumes spread out over time, which is the perfect scenario to actually get through the melt-off with the record-breaking snowpack that we’ve experienced this year,” Merrill said. 

There are still more than 40 inches of snow water equivalent at the top of Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons, he said, melting at a rate of two inches a day.

There are still more than 20 days of snow left to come down the hydrologist said. 

“The weather has behaved. We should all thank the weather because right now, the positives far outweigh the negatives,” he said. 

He is expecting the Cottonwood Creeks to keep rising gradually, peaking in about ten days, sometime between June 2 and June 12. City Creek should peak next week.

“We’re just seeing kind of a muted effect with the weather being very favorable for runoff, and this cloud cover has really benefited how the snow comes down,” Kade Moncur, director of Salt Lake County Flood Control said.

Right now, they’re not projecting those creeks to flood, while Salt Lake County Flood Control continues to monitor the swift water flowing within the banks.

“We go from creek to creek,” Moncur said. “We’re pulling all of the debris from where we usually do. We’re actually out in the middle of the night and were monitoring those creeks. But we’re just not seeing a ton of issues at the moment.”

There has been some flooding, the kind to be expected on a record-breaking snow year.

Even with the ideal weather conditions, a flood warning was issued for the Logan River on Tuesday but it expired Friday morning.

Several cabins were already dealing with damage on Tuesday as waters pushed through some sandbag walls.

A road leading to several cabins was washed over and residents were concerned that both of their access roads would also get washed out.

“We are escaping that widespread, dramatic, flooding, that we’ve seen in years past,” Merrill said. 

It’s still too early to say that there won’t be any flooding issues related to these creeks.  So far, the water is flowing well.

KSL 5 TV Live

Utah's Flood Watch

Crews work on flood mitigation in Eagle Mountain...

Brittany Tait

Eagle Mountain’s project to reduce flooding threat

After an unseasonably rainy spring, certain neighborhoods in Eagle Mountain witnessed multiple floods. 

3 months ago

A man skateboards with an umbrella as it rains in Salt Lake City on Aug. 22. Utah water officials s...

Carter Williams, KSL.com

How impactful have this year’s monsoons been for Utah’s water supply?

Utah's monsoon season is slowly winding down, but not before leaving an impact on Utah's reservoirs in various ways.

3 months ago

A line of storms rolls through Salt Lake Valley on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023. (Spenser Heaps/ Deseret...

Carter Williams, KSL.com

Flood watches, wind advisories issued as Hilary’s remnants eke past Utah

Several flood and high wind advisories remain in effect throughout Utah most of Monday, and even into Tuesday, as the remnants of Hurricane Hilary move through parts of Utah.

4 months ago

Sandbags were stacked at the Intermountain hospital in Cedar City as the area expected more floodin...

Lauren Steinbrecher

Cedar City braces for more flash flooding

Preparations were underway Friday for flash flooding in parts of Southern Utah, as communities like Cedar City work to make sure they don’t get a repeat of what the storms brought Thursday.

4 months ago

Hurricane Hilary...

Carter Williams, KSL.com

UPDATE: How much will tropical storm Hilary impact Utah?

UPDATE: Hilary has been downgraded to a tropical storm since this article was published. Though, it still poses major threats to some areas of deadly rainfall along the western U.S.. Estimates on its impact in Utah as detailed below should still be precautioned. SALT LAKE CITY — Hurricane Hilary is expected to provide significant rainfall […]

4 months ago

The Fremont River Trail in Capitol Reef National Park is closed due to damage from Thursday's flash...

Larry D. Curtis and Josh Ellis, KSL TV

Flood watch issued for southern Utah; southwestern US prepares for Hurricane Hilary

Portions of central and southern Utah, including popular recreation areas, are under a flash flood watch issued by the National Weather Service ahead of a monsoon surge that will push into the state.

4 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Design mockup half in white and half in color of luxury house interior with open plan living room a...

Lighting Design

Lighting Design 101: Learn the Basics

These lighting design basics will help you when designing your home, so you can meet both practical and aesthetic needs.

an antler with large horns int he wilderness...

Three Bear Lodge

Yellowstone in the Fall: A Wildlife Spectacle Worth Witnessing

While most people travel to this park in the summer, late fall in Yellowstone provides a wealth of highlights to make a memorable experience.

a diverse group of students raising their hands in a classroom...

Little Orchard Preschool

6 Benefits of Preschool for Kids

Some of the benefits of preschool for kids include developing independence, curiosity, and learning more about the world.

High mountain snow melt fills rivers and creeks as peak runoff nears